Lambda Legal Reaches Settlement with Philadelphia Youth Detention Facility That Tormented Transgender Girl

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"The resolution of this case means that transgender youth in Philadelphia have one more safe space where they won't be abused and discriminated against but respected and kept safe."
August 18, 2011

(Philadelphia, PA August 18, 2011) - Today Lambda Legal announced the resolution of a discrimination complaint with the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations (PCHR) against the City of Philadelphia Department of Human Services (DHS) and the Youth Study Center (YSC) among others. Lambda Legal filed the complaint on behalf of L.P. a now 18-year-old transgender woman who was physically attacked by other residents and verbally abused by staff every day for almost a year and a half when she lived in the youth facility.

"Youth Study Center's new policies and trainings adopted as a result of this settlement will help to ensure that other transgender youth under the facility's care are safe and don't face discrimination because of who they are," said Flor Bermudez, Youth in Out-of-Home Care Staff Attorney for Lambda Legal. "The resolution of this case means that transgender youth in Philadelphia have one more safe space where they won't be abused and discriminated against but respected and kept safe."

In February 2008, a Family Court Judge ordered DHS to provide L.P. with all appropriate medical treatment for Gender Identity Disorder (GID), including hormone therapy and mandated that her female gender identity be respected. However, YSC staff and administrators failed to treat the girl in accordance with her female gender identity. They refused to refer to her by her preferred female name and to use female pronouns. YSC staff also refused her access to clothing and grooming options that matched her gender identity and reprimanded her for acting in a feminine manner. When she asked to be referred to by her preferred female name, YSC staff told her: "You ain’t no fucking female, you are a dude. . . Till you get your dick cut off, I’m not going to call you [by your female name.]"

In addition, YSC staff subjected the girl to ridicule and cruel and degrading treatment and allowed abuse by residents on a daily basis. She endured verbal harassment, including slurs such as: "You're a faggot," "Wanna-be-girl," "You are not a girl," and "You will never be a girl." On several occasions, the verbal harassment escalated to physical attacks.

The complaint filed, in October 2009, by Lambda Legal to the PCHR argued that the YSC, operated by DHS, violated the Philadelphia Fair Practices Ordinance because L.P. was harassed and discriminated against on the basis of her actual and/or perceived gender identity, sexual orientation, sex, and disability.

L.P. and DHS settled this matter on terms agreeable to all parties. The settlement included revisions to YSC policies addressing non-discriminatory treatment of LGBT youth to include specific protections for transgender youth. Now transgender youth will be able to live in a single room on the unit that corresponds to their gender identity and receive hormone therapy. Also, while living in the facility, transgender youth will be called by their preferred name and the pronoun that reflects the youth's gender identity, even if the youth's name has not been legally changed. YSC will also provide clothing and grooming options to transgender and gender non-conforming youth throughout their stay at the facility.

DHS will also provide training for all YSC agents, providers and staff on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) issues and respectful treatment of LGBT youth. According to the settlement, the City of Philadelphia will also pay an undisclosed amount to L.P.

"I am happy that the case is settled. I hope that these changes will ensure that no other young transgender person experiences the physical and emotional abuse that I experienced at the Youth Study Center," said the 18-year-old woman.

The case is L.P. v. Philadelphia, et al.

Flor Bermudez, Lambda Legal Youth in Out-of-Home Care Staff Attorney, is handling the case.



Contact Info

Contact: Jonathan Adams 212-809-8585 ext 267;

Lambda Legal is a national organization committed to achieving full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and those with HIV through impact litigation, education and public policy work.